For a brief moment I hesitated in writing this recap. This had nothing to do with the event itself, but more my disappointing results. I ran both days at Strong Viking, Odin race wave Saturday and a later 19km wave on Sunday. Or at least, I tried…
Up until the day before I felt ready for my qualification run. I had recovered well from my previous weekend and was hoping to be done with the whole qualifying for the rest of the year. The night before my daughter turned out to have a nasty stomach flu. She probably got that from my wife and I was hoping I dodged the bullet. That night showed otherwise. I won’t go into detail too much, but just remember something wanted to come out but couldn't. I can actually shove my entire arm in the back of my throat but couldn’t throw up if my life depended on it.
The Friday diner was basically the only solid food I’d be able to eat the entire weekend. It was a huge dinner, because raceday, so even though I felt like I had a block of cement in my stomach I had enough energy in the morning to at least try to run. And so I went to Amsterdam.
Spaarnwoude for some reason always feels like coming home. We could clearly see the obstacles had been thrown around to change the course, but it was still like we never left.
We met up with the team ready to start in the race wave and prepared for the start. It turned out to be a lot colder and more rainy then expected. So we prepped for cold.
After a short warmup by the regular miss Cynthia-“OORAH” we were off over the Viking Wall. I felt energetic and able to pick up speed quick. My stomach felt solid, but I felt like I could cope. Not long after we encountered the first obstacle, the Dragon Ropes. That’s where the reflux started, but I still quite easily made it to the bell. Off towards the muddy areas. Starting with a big trench and a dark mudcrawl. Some of the fences that made up the roof of the crawl where bent, so we really had to get flat on the ground. Next the actual mudtrenches. It had rained a lot the night before, so the mud was thick, slippery and a lot like quicksand. Each trench was a struggle, for everybody. Walking through the water felt like we were walking on the moon. Right after the last bump was a patch of mud that didn’t look too deep, but jumping into it I realised I got completely stuck up to my hips. The only way to get out was to get flat on my stomach and wiggle each leg out. Lost a lot of time there.
Next the mud crawl under barbed wire and the Mud Pyramid. We were all completely covered in mud, so the pyramid was way to slippery to tackle without the use of the knots in the ropes. I managed to put my foot on the knot, pressing the rope between the inside of my foot and the pyramid. I was then able to grab the top of the pyramid and pull myself onto it.
All around me, I kept hearing people shout. I realised most where telling people NOT to help them! There were a lot of people in the race wave that had no idea of the qualifying rules. We are not allowed to help or receive help on obstacles.
After being able to wash our hands in a tub we were off towards the “Carry the Shield”. That’s where things went south regarding my stomach. Walking up and down the hills caused pain and reflux. Don't think I haven’t tried getting rid of it. As soon as I try my stomach just goes “Nope, I was just teasing”.. It was draining energy. Immediately after the carry was a water post. I tried to down the water and skipped the food. Told myself to keep going. I run OCR, the only way to stop is when bone pokes through..
Next came the balance bars and basically a long run until the Log Drag. Everything turned into some sort of a tightrope exercise. Finding a balance between giving it all and… well I think I explained the rest enough now. Throw the Hammer went perfect. First throw was a direct hit.Next came Carry the Viking and Thor’s Lightning. Both we could skip as qualifiers, but that only made it a really long run from Throw the Hammer to the Hammer Banger. The course itself was wet. A lot of ankle deep and slippery mud, so an almost constant balancing act. This made it feel like there was a cannonball dangling from a string in my chest. But I could keep it in and keep going.
When reaching the Hammer Banger, I was determined to break my previous eight hits record. So I managed to do it in 7! And off I was. It was immediately followed by a drinking post. They decided only to serve watered down energy drink there. Not something I was even remotely considering taking, so I ran along.
Next came the Crawl Up, which was muddy and steep. Yet I still managed to get up top without adding a little to the muck. I had to walk off the nausea but I went on to the new obstacle. Brother Hill. An excellent addition to the obstacles! Like I said before we weren’t supposed to get aid anywhere, so they made a little ledge on the bottom of the ramp. From that we could jump up to the ropes and walk up to the top. Not too hard, not exactly easy either. A little up the hill came the Monkeybars. The same wooden ones we’ve seen before. Not taking any risks I tackled it sideways. Making me able to skip some of the bars.
At that point I needed to take more rests. My stomach was protesting. I made my way to the Storm the Castle. I noticed the usual race ropes weren’t there and the ramp was wet! I could see some running up with ease, but also a lot of second, third, fourth tries. It has been a struggle to get on the Storm the Castle for me for a while now, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be this time.
I ran up the ramp, completely missed the top beam and slid back down. Second try. I ran up, grabbed the big beam, barely hung on, grabbed the metal bar with one hand and was able to pull myself up! I made it!
The adrenaline caused me to forget nausea for a moment. I ran on towards the next obstacles.
The Weaver proved to be a p.i.t.a. Or stomach to be more precise, but I was able to do it without losing too much time. Next came the Fjord Drop. All fun and games. Ran up, got greeted by two team mates volunteering on there and got pushed down the slide. The water was cold but bearable and I was off again.
After a relatively long, slippery run came the Water Cage. Which was cold and refreshing! Followed by the Over and Under and the Two Bars. Apart from the reflux and nagging stomach pains, I was doing ok. Had to catch my breath after every obstacle that needed core strength, but I could hang on.
They added a last-minute obstacle. Shooting a paintball gun at barrels. Three shots, 1 hit needed. Hit the barrel on the first shot, fired two more just to be sure.
Onward past some different types of load carries to the Walls. The inclining wall, slippery but made it, then the high wall with the little ledge. Made it over again without the ledge! And off to the inverted wall, which was quickly dealt with as well.
Next a long stretch towards the Arctic Area. Through the snow tunnels and up the Snow Pyramid. All without too much effort. Just fighting the nausea. And then on towards the hills. A large part of the course was over a hill with lots of mountain bike trails on them. The constant up and down running made my stomach aches get worse. I had to slow down more often. Again a couple load carries, one a long way up and down the steep hill. I couldn’t run. Just walk. Keep the pace. Try not to give up. I went auto-pilot. Back into the woods to one of my favourite obstacles. The Gunnors Struggle.
I grabbed one of the sticks and wanted to step onto the beam to put the stick onto the rig. I don’t really know what happened, but I suddenly slipped, swung sideways, fell in front of the beam and landed on my side on one of the sticks standing against the beam. I quickly got up, gathered myself, got back on the beam, did the obstacle and moved along. Immediately afterwards I realised I couldn't run. Every step hurt my side. I quickly evaluated the damage. It was bruised and scratched, but apart from that I was ok. The nausea and reflux came back with a vengeance. I walked along as fast as I could. I should almost be there.
I came back out to the main area. Ran into the Strong-Wall. I quickly went up and over. Then the Ropes XL. Fighting the reflux I tapped the bar and was off up the big rocky hill again. I realised I had one obstacle left. The Varjagen Saga. It was going to be tough. Wet, muddy, cold and the fact that I couldn't pull myself up without massive stomach pains didn't really help either.
The first try was easy up until the pegboard. I hadn’t realised it was lowered compared to other editions. If I’m tired I like doing the pegboard stretched out, so only using my hands. The first peg was in, trying to get the second in made me step onto the ground. Back to the start.
Second try. A different approach on the pegboard. I was half way, decided to swing to the platform. Swung over, landed both feet on the platform, felt like I was losing my balance and in a reflex grabbed the board. Back to the start.
Third try. Tried the other side of the pegboard. So tired I could hardly keep my feet off the grass. Struggling to get the peg in. My hand slipped and there I was, back to the start.
The last two tries I had to take breaks every segment to avoid passing out. Not tired, just ridiculously low blood sugar and that damn nausea. Amped up by the officials I decided to give it one more try.
Fourth try. Up the ramp, rest, over the dragon back, rest, entering the bar, past the two wheels, rest. I was done. Felt like the world was starting to rotate around me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave up…
After handing in my wristband, I felt stupid. But the feeling sick made me just want to move on. I headed towards the finish. The Walhalla Steps. Made my way up and quickly back down. And that was that. I made it. Without passing out, throwing up and/or dying. But was nowhere near proud.
That night things seemed to improve. I still couldn’t eat, but it felt like the rocks in my stomach started to digest. Next morning I tried to eat breakfast, failed, but still felt up to do another run!
We planned to run with as many team members as we could. Which ended up to be a whopping 8 of us. Full of energy we started in the 19km wave. Helped each other over the Viking Wall and accompanied by my team flag we were off.
We had so much fun we almost took as much time for the first couple of kilometres as I had done the entire 19km the day before, but we didn’t care. We helped each other through the trenches, pushed each other forward through the crawls, held each other up at the slippery hills and paths and just had loads of fun.
I on the other hand started to feel worse rapidly. It took up until then to realise I hadn’t actually eaten much to anything since Friday night. My knee began to hurt, I was burning through the remaining energy I had left. Luckily one of my teammates had an energy gel to spare. I could barely keep that in, but it did seem to help a little. The course was slippery as the day before, but the weather had improved a lot. So the mud was a lot thicker and way more sticky. Everything was covered with a thick layer of mud.
The Hammer Banger came up. Bone dry as the obstacle was I had a hard time to get the log to the other side. And then that damn energy drinking post. Seeing how I was starting to feel, I decided to take the cup. One thing I’ll remember. DO NOT TAKE ENERGY DRINKS with a UPSET STOMACH….. I managed to keep it in, but I had to skip the Crawl Up.
We flew through the monkey bars and up the hill of rocks. That's when the exhaustion hit. I could barely get myself up the hill. I knew one obstacle stood between us and the 7KM finish. Storm the Castle. I reluctantly decided that would be the last obstacle I would do.
Climbing down we were all excited about making it, and we ran along. Along… I completely missed the 7km exit point. Of course, I only realised this running towards the Tyre Flip. I decided to see how far into the 13km I could get. Determined to stop at 13km (I knew what would come afterwards).
Next came the Weaver. I decided not to do the obstacle, but help my team mates get across. We ran on towards the Fjord Drop. All of us got up and did the drop! Some took some convincing but ended up doing it! I’m proud of them!
The rest of the 13km was trying to do as many obstacles as possible. Motivated and supported by the team, trying to do my share of motivating and supporting them. Especially coming out the woods, after the walls, it got worse. I quickly ran out of energy. Sometimes I felt like I was drunk. I had to stop. It might seem stupid that I started in the first place, but at least I knew at that point I had to stop.
Coming towards the Arctic Area, the loop back to the rest of the 19km and the 13km finish. I gave up. I said my goodbye to the team and went to the 13km finish. Disappointed, broken down, and battling the thought of failure. Coming towards the Platinum Rig (also one of my favourites) I realised I could at least kill that final obstacle. So I did. The volunteer next to the rig wanted to tell me how to do the obstacle, but stopped mid-sentence, since I was already halfway in.
One last time those Walhalla Steps and there I was, at the finish of the 13km…
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